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Recession-buster: Two ways to buy full Microsoft Office 2007 (legally) for under $50

Reseller, student, military and corporate home-use options mean huge discounts for many

By Eric Lai
March 6, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Microsoft Office 2007 isn't cheap. The full standard edition lists for $399, and other editions cost between $149 and $499.

So let's say you're still weighing a move to Office 2007 but can't imagine paying full or even upgrade price when there free, worthy alternatives such as Google Docs, Lotus Symphony, OpenOffice.org, ThinkFree and Zoho. What to do if you don't want to wait until next year, when Microsoft launches Office 14 and will, as Microsoft confirmed last week, offer at least one version of Office 14 via the Web for free?

Tight times, equal measures

There are two established ways to buy Microsoft Office on the cheap. One is the reseller version. Aimed at PC makers and do-it-yourselfers, this edition is entirely legal for consumers to buy. With it, you can get the Home and Student Edition for $80 or the Standard edition for $225, which represents a significant discount.

The disadvantage is that you can install Office on only one PC. Full retail versions let you install the software on two PCs, except for Home and Student versions, which allows three. And if you have to replace a defective motherboard, it's likely Microsoft will count that as a new PC and disable the software.

The second way is to buy an academic version of Office. As with the reseller version, users are restricted to installing the software on one PC each. And buyers are technically required to be a student, teacher or a parent buying on behalf of a student.

Academic versions can net even more savings than buying a reseller version. A Standard edition of Office, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, costs $130 from one reseller.

Many of the resellers don't require you to present a copy of a current student ID. While the practice may seem widespread, technically, it isn't permitted under Microsoft's rules.

The best academic deal is what Microsoft calls the "Ultimate Steal": the full Office Ultimate 2007 suite -- the basic Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook apps, along with Publisher, OneNote, Groove, InfoPath, Access, and Accounting Express -- for $59.95.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said this is the second academic year Microsoft has offered the Ultimate Steal. In theory, only current students are eligible. But the criteria -- presenting an .edu e-mail address -- also seems to allow alumni with an e-mail address from their old school to get the deal, readers report.

It's nice to be appreciated

There are two other ways to get Office legally for even less, provided you qualify.

Current military personnel, retirees and their dependents are all eligible (PDF document) for Microsoft's Military Appreciation Edition of Office 2007. This is the full Standard edition of Office, except that users can install it on as many as three PCs.

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